When you picture a hacker, what image comes to mind? Is it a male, sitting in his parents’ basement, wearing a dark hoodie, hacking all night?
“Nothing can be further from the truth,” Shelley Westman, Principal, Cybersecurity at EY said. “Cyber criminals today are well-funded, organized, and operate like a business.”
Cybersecurity, and other tech fields, are filled with misconceptions. And they are filled with gender biases, such as the image of a hacker in a hoodie, or the masculine language used in job descriptions. According to the Huffington Post, more than 800 cyber jobs used the term, “ninja,” when describing their possible candidates. What’s the image in your head of a ninja? Is it a man or a woman? For most people, the stereotype is male.
“We have to be careful that we stress the collaboration and teamwork required in cyber security — skills women in the workforce do extremely well,” Westman said.
Collaboration and teamwork matter in all industries, tech and cyber security included.
And women’s presence in these industries matter as well.
When you search online for “Women in Tech,” you’ll probably find events in your area that you could attend. Conferences are certainly helping make an impact bringing more women to be a part of the tech world, but we need to do more to help change happen. Interested in getting involved?
Here are seven organizations actively working to involve women and girls in tech. Consider how you might join in and support them in their incredible work!
- Girls Who Code: The best place to start improving gender parity in tech is with the youth. This nonprofit focuses on teaching girls K-12 to code. Although coding isn’t currently part of the Common Core, or found on typical, standardized tests, most students can now find opportunities to learn and be involved through their schools. This organization’s focus is getting more girls involved as well. According to their website, they’ve reached almost 90,000 girls of all backgrounds in all 50 states.
- 2020Shift: This organization creates opportunities for women to move into tech fields without the typical backgrounds. For instance, they have a Beginner’s Guide to UX/UI Design on their site, which is an area where the job expectations are expanding without the experienced applicants to fill them.
- Codecademy: If you’re more of a self-paced learner and ready to take on coding when it’s convenient for you, this site is what you’re looking for. Here, you can learn to code for free, which will be an invaluable skill no matter the job as we use technology in every industry and every career.
- Black Girls Code: As their name makes clear, this organization’s goal is to provide tech learning opportunities for young and pre-teen girls of color. Their mission from their website is “to introduce programming and technology to a new generation of coders, coders who will become builders of technological innovation and of their own future.”
- AnitaB.org: This organization continues the vision of Anita Borg, a computer scientist who founded a digital community for women — and she did it back in 1987! Today, AnitaB.org “works with technologists in more than 80 countries, and partners with academic institutions and Fortune 500 companies worldwide.” Their focus is on helping women in tech succeed through connection, inspiration, guidance and organizations.
- The National Center for Women & Information Technology: this non-profit focuses on increasing women’s participation in “computing across the entire ecosystem.” Their programs help in recruiting more women, retaining female employees, and providing advancement for women, starting in grade school and continuing throughout their careers. It’s an incredibly broad focus, but that means you may find the right fit for you in one of their many programs.
- TechWomen: This worldwide organization is through the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, launched in June 2011. Their site explains that their intent is to provide “opportunities for women worldwide to participate in cutting-edge training, professional development and exchange programs, and pursue higher education.” You could find programs there to join networks, find a mentor, or connect with experts in public and private industries worldwide.
In addition to working with or joining these groups, women entrepreneurs are in unique positions to make an impact for women in tech. What can you do to be a part of this movement towards gender parity? How can you help?
Westman provides some excellent strategies.
“I think women and men lifting up women in the workplace is key in making sure employees overcome imposter syndrome. A good place to start is to make sure female employees have mentors and are fully aware of the contributions they make to their organization. However, I also think overcoming imposter syndrome will eventually need to come from within.”